As part of a school assignment we were asked to write a poem that would fit into our anthologies (which are on the theme of 'Land' so are mainly nature based), reflecting some of the themes of those we have been reading. I chose to write mine about the woods near my grandparents' house. As far as I know, 'the Alf' was a nickname we gave it that no one else used. My grandfather, with whom I walked there, died in May 2010.
Did it rain in the Alf?
When we walked together, the streams were dry
and all around fallen leaves were prematurely brown.
I have walked there since. Once—or perhaps twice
but with younger companions who walked faster
and lingered less;
who did not stop to pick blackberries
(because, they pointed out, I do not eat them anyway—
as if that was the point)
or to pose on branches or walk a plank bridge
across the cracked stream bed;
who did not talk of stars and numbers
and the very concept of infinity
but work and colleagues and money and
(oh, horror!) politics and current affairs
as though I were not there or worse,
as though they expected me to care.
I have never walked there alone.
Perhaps I fear reliving the last walk we took,
perhaps I fear to walk beside a ghost.
That, I cannot bear.
It rained the day you died.
I watched the windscreen wipers to and fro
and waited to be told what I already knew
after which I could not find it in me to cry
because it had been locked away so long.
Besides, the rain rendered it unnecessary.
It rained on the motorways and the concrete,
on the buildings and the roads
and they, ungrateful, let it gather in puddles:
oily, unused and unwanted
until at last the sun came out
to try it and steal reflection from the ground.
I wonder if it rained in the Alf
to fill dry streams with sky tears
and turn our long-gone footprints to mud.